News

Katamatite dairy farmers fight for son with life-threatening condition

By Sophie Baldwin

The last thing Lyndl and Nick Oosthuizen wanted to do when they arrived in Australia five years ago was put their hands out for help.

The dairy farmers fled their native South Africa after one robbery, murder and rape too many to give themselves and their two young children Lynique and Waldo a better – and much safer – life.

Lyndl and Nick came to Australia through all the right visa channels and have been working hard on a dairy farm at Katamatite to secure a future in an industry and country they love.

The birth of baby Carlu, one day after Christmas completed their family and they were full of optimism, until he fell critically ill on January 18.

Carlu was born on December 26, before falling critically ill on January 18. He's since been diagnosed with atrial septal defect secundum and supraventricular tachycardia, a congenital heart defect that results in an abnormally fast heartbeat.

“He was vomiting and seemed really unwell so we took him straight to the Cobram hospital,” Nick said.

Ill-equipped to deal with such a sick baby, Carlu was bundled into an ambulance with Lyndl and sent to Shepparton where, on arrival, his heart rate was 360 beats a minute.

“It was just terrifying,” Lyndl said.

“Carlu was so small he had to be strapped to my body to ride in the ambulance and when we got to hospital the doctors tried everything to get his heart rate down.”

Doctors tried sticking a finger down his throat to make him gag, an ice pack was applied to his head and when that didn’t work his head was placed in a bucket of ice and that burnt his skin.

With no success, he was given three injections, and when they did not work either he was given an electric shot straight to the heart which finally bought his heart rate down.

Katamatite dairy farmers Lyndl and Nick Oosthuizen with their children Carlu, Lynique and Waldo.

Once stabilised he was immediately flown by helicopter to the Royal Children’s Hospital.

Lyndl and Nick spent the next week wondering if their little boy was going to make it.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen and we were just frightened the whole time,” Nick said.

Fortunately, Carlu made it through and despite another regression and another emergency ambulance flight to the children’s hospital in February, Carlu is now doing well.

The diagnosis of atrial septal defect secundum and aupraventricular tachycardia – an abnormally fast heartbeat - has left the family relieved but scared at the same time.

Carlu could go into SVT anytime and if his heartbeat remains elevated there is a possibility his organs could shut down.

Down the track, if the medication does not work and he continues to go into SVT, he will most likely face heart surgery.

Because there are no visible signs of SVT in a baby, the couple faces a future monitoring Carlu and checking his heart rate every three hours.

“I am constantly checking him and making sure he is okay – the worst period is at night when I can’t monitor him all the time and it gives me so much anxiety,” Lyndl said.

On top of dealing with the pressures of a sick child, Lyndl and Nick also have to deal with the worry of visas expiring in September, whether they can get extensions, getting a birth certificate and passport for Carlu - a long winded process where basically his birth certificate has to be issued from South Africa as children born in Australia are no longer immediate Australian citizens - along with the worry of paying full price medical bills.

Lyndl and Nick Oosthuizen face a future monitoring Carlu, who has been diagnosed with an abnormally fast heartbeat, and checking his heart rate every three hours.

Lyndl said the pressure and stress of the situation has been immense and she is now suffering post-natal depression.

“I am on anti-depressants, which is all very new and very scary for me. I can’t afford a therapist and I have found an online group for support, but I am not in a very good space,” Lyndl said.

Nick said with Lyndl unable to work finances are extremely tight.

“Some days it is just so hard,” he said.

“We try and pay all the bills and then a whole lot more come through. Some days Carlu could see four or five specialists and that’s four or five different bills - the financial pressure is enormous, and it is never ending.

“We can’t get a loan because our visas are close to expiring and we couldn’t pay the money back in time anyway. We are so scared if we can’t pay our bills we will be sent back to South Africa. Our whole drive behind moving here was to give our children a better life free of violence, and a chance to grow up safely.”

Lyndl and Nick knew when they came to Australia, they had no access to Medicare until they became naturalised and never having needed Australian private health cover before, had made the mistake of presuming the policy they organised when they arrived was adequate.

Both Lyndl and Nick are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to come Australia and the last thing they want to do is complain and seem like whingers, but they desperately need some financial help.

“We have sold what we can to help pay some bills, but it is not enough.

"We know things are tough with drought and fires and everything else, but we have nowhere else to turn,” Nick said.

Family friend Courtney Buchannan has organised a gofundme page which has currently raised $3700 of a $40 000 target.

“Nick and Lyndl are a great family who came to Australia to make a better life for their children. They are hard working and don’t deserve to be going through what they are because they can’t access Medicare.

“I just wanted to help give them some support by organising the gofundme page,” Courtney said.

● To donate to the go fund me visit, gofundme.com/help-support-carlu039s-congenital-heart-defect